Zuma case battle lines drawn

2008-05-15 00:00

The battle lines were clearly drawn yesterday and the National Prosecuting Authority were left in no doubt of Jacob Zuma’s intentions to clear his path to the presidency of all obstacles.

The first move in his long-awaited fraud, corruption, racketeering, tax evasion and money laundering trial will be an application by Zuma’s legal team when the trial starts on August 4 to have the state’s decision to charge him declared unlawful.

This emerged yesterday following a meeting in Pietermaritzburg between KZN Judge President Vuka Tshabalala, the prosecution, and defence teams representing Zuma and his co-accused, Thint Holdings (Southern Africa) and Thint (Pty) Ltd as represented by Pierre Moynot.

The grounds on which Zuma’s defence will allege that his prosecution is illegal are not yet clear and his legal team are only due to file court papers in support of the application some time next month.

Zuma’s attorney, Michael Hulley, and advocate Kemp J. Kemp SC avoided contact with the media waiting in the foyer for word of the outcome of the meeting, but Billy Downer SC and Anton Steynberg, who lead the prosecution, confirmed that this is the “preliminary” application referred to in a brief statement issued by Judge Tshabalala after the meeting.

Tshabalala said: “Following an agreement between the parties, the judge president has confirmed that he will appoint a trial judge to hear a preliminary application in Pietermaritzburg on August 4 and the trial will be adjourned to a date to be determined by the trial judge”.

Downer said it is expected that Zuma’s application — effectively an application for a review of the state’s decision to charge him — will probably be heard over two days.

Whatever the outcome of the application, an appeal could follow, although this is most likely to happen if it is the state that loses the first round of the “legal war”.

Thint’s lawyer, Ajay Sooklal, and advocate Michael Collins also declined to speak to the media, but The Witness learned that it is expected that if Zuma’s application fails to impress the trial judge, Thint is likely to apply to court for a permanent stay of prosecution.

In that event, Thint also still have to file papers and are only likely to be in a position to do so during September, and the application is unlikely to be argued in court before November or December.

The judge president made no announcement as to which of KZN’s judges will find him- or herself in the hot seat for the all-important August hearing.

Downer and Steynberg made it clear to the media that the state is ready to proceed, notwithstanding decisions that are still pending by the Constitutional Court and in Mauritius.

These concern the search and seizure raids conducted by the Scorpions and original documents the state seeks to obtain from Mauritius for the case.

Downer said that whatever the outcome of those proceedings, the state is prepared to go to trial on August 4.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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